There’s nothing more frustrating than a dog that pulls on their leash during walks. This can lead to dangerous situations, general annoyance, and dogs not getting the exercise required for good physical and mental health.
At Majestic Paws, our business is dog walking, and we’re sharing best practices to make walks more enjoyable for both of you.
Get Started with the Right Dog-Walking Equipment
Walking your dog with any kind of collar around their neck can actually encourage pulling. However, we have tried some different types of equipment that are not only more comfortable for your dog, but that discourage tugging.
Dog-walking basics should be taught when your dog is young—including positive reinforcement and techniques like not moving forward until your pup stops pulling.
If you struggle to train your dog to walk calmly by your side, you might consider trying one or more of these implements.
A sturdy leash that can be wrapped around your hand and is short enough to keep the dog at your side is always recommended. Never use a retractable leash. You cannot have complete control over your dog and there’s no way to wrap the leash around your hand for added security.
A harness encircles a dog’s midsection, which gives you more control and is more comfortable for some dogs than a leash-and-collar system. We prefer to use harnesses for larger, stronger breeds.
This leash fits around the dog’s middle much like a harness, and when the dog pulls, it directs pressure to the dog’s rib area. The correction is gentle, but we find it to be very effective.
This dog-walking aid has a strap that goes over the dog’s snout and pulls her head down and to the side if she tugs on the leash. This can help train your dog to walk calmly—but do your research first. If your dog is a strong puller, their neck could be injured.
Being a responsible dog owner means cleaning up after your dog—we all know that. Poop bags have come a long way, with features like dispensers on carabiners so they can be carried on your dog’s leash. Always dispose of used waste bags properly (“biodegradable” or “compostable” does not mean you can leave them lying around.
Unless you’re walking a Husky, Labrador Retriever, Saint Bernard, or other breed that thrives in cold weather, your dog might find a sweater or jacket to be a welcome addition to their daily walk. Additionally, if you wouldn’t want to walk on Chicago sidewalks (which can be incredibly cold in the winter and hot in the summer) in your bare feet, your dog doesn’t either. A quick Google search for “dog booties” or “dog socks” will yield plenty of options to keep your best friend comfortable while walking.
Will you be walking for more than 30 minutes? Then we recommend taking water with you, to keep your dog from becoming dehydrated—particularly when they’re panting heavily during the summer months.
Easy dog walking is all about positive reinforcement. If your dog has been trained using food for rewards, that should apply to walks as well. When he walks nicely without pulling, stops readily at curbs, and heeds your commands when encountering humans or other dogs, pull out the treats.
Training Your Dog to Walk on a Leash
Now that you have everything you need to walk your dog, it’s important to understand that even the most advanced equipment won’t solve bad leash manners. Train your dog to heed basic commands like Sit, Heel, and Wait, and you’ll have what you need to teach good walking habits.
Introduce Walking Early
Your puppy is never too young to go for a walk. Just remember that more than 15 minutes can cause fatigue in your little one. Some puppies will resist walking, especially if they’re close to home. If this seems to be the case, carry your baby a few blocks away to start walk training.
Develop a Routine
If your dog isn’t already in a walking routine, choose a time of day that works best for you and go for a walk every day near that time. Until your dog is trained to walk calmly on a leash and follow your commands, stay on the same route. This will help them focus on the procedure and your commands, rather than the changing environment.
Come Equipped with Rewards
Effective dog-walking training relies upon positive reinforcement. For many pups, that means treats. There will be a lot of distractions for your dog while walking, and treats will help to keep their attention and communicate to them what you’d like them to do. Give your dog a treat every time he or she listens to a command or stays focused on you—especially when you’re just starting out.
Know the Importance of “Sit”
The Sit command will become the key to good walking manners for your dog. Before you walk out the door, ask them to sit. Before crossing a street, ask them to sit. Before moving on after a distraction, ask them to sit. And of course, administer a treat when they do.
Pulling on the leash is the number-one most common walking problem for dog owners. You might feel compelled to tug back but know that will only cause your dog to pull harder.
As a rule of thumb, if your dog is pulling on the leash, do not move forward. Continuing the walk should be their reward for maintaining a loose leash. This can feel like a long, slow process at first, but if you stick with it, your dog will start to understand within a few weeks.
Walks are for exploring, which provides mental stimulation for your dog. Sniffing is a big part of that stimulation, because it’s your dog’s primary method for gathering information. Allow her to stop and sniff as much as she likes—then you can be sure she’s getting the most out of her walk.
There are lots of things to sniff while walking; however, some dogs like to put everything that smells interesting in their mouths. This can lead to them feeling ill or being poisoned.
If your dog comes upon something that seems delicious, use the command “Leave It” and offer them a treat instead.
You’ll start to notice some typical behaviors from your dog when he comes upon something interesting. As he gets to know the “Leave It” command, continue with the positive reinforcement.
The Importance of Walking Your Dog
We’ve already discussed how crucial walks are to your dog’s mental stimulation—and when that walk is an all-around good experience, the benefits will compound.
Do you struggle to find time to walk your dog? Would you like to be more consistent with dog walking, but your schedule won’t allow for it? That’s where Majestic Paws comes in. Your dog’s dedicated dog walker will arrive during the same timeframe every day, provide a stimulating, positive walking experience for your dog, and report back to you with photos and comments.